The light continues to lengthen our days as we move toward Imbolc. Imbolc is a festival celebrating Spring. It falls on February 1st in the Northern Hemisphere and is halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.
Although the Spring Equinox marks the first day of spring, the start of February is also the start of the lambing season. Baby animals are coming into the world, bulbs and buds are pushing forth from the soil and trees are promising new leaves will be coming soon.
Of course this is also the time that snow storms blanket the earth in some regions and freezing temperatures continue across many areas.
But even beneath this life pulses on. Even when the buds and bulbs can not yet be seen they are there beneath the surface waiting to re-emerge. And as the lambs come forth, so to does the hope for light, warmth and growth of the next season.
The wheel of the year is deeply linked to the turning of the seasons and the ability to sustain nourishment throughout the year. This is a time (where I live) to prune the trees and bushes back, to begin to tidy and clean up garden beds in anticipation of spring planting, to cast spells for abundance and fertility upon the earth in support of the soil growing a hearty harvest when the time comes to plant.
The first milk from the Ewes was often used as an offering, a symbol of fertility and poured upon fields to invoke healthy fertile soil.
Fire plays a role in this festival as it is a symbol of the returning sun.
This celebration is also tied to the Goddess Brigid (later known as Saint Brigid), who is the Goddess of healing and art. Is associated with fertility. Brigid is also linked to healing, creativity and the hearth and/or forge. At Brigid festivals dolls were made to represent this Goddess and then paraded from house to house as a blessing. Sacred wells were connected to Brigid and my understanding is that there are wells associated with St Brigid that exist in Ireland still to this day.
My own initiation into the experience of an Imbolc ritual was a public one. The focus of the ritual was to honor Brigid, the turning of the wheel and to use the symbols of the holy water and sacred flame, to make a pledge to Brigid for the coming year. Doing this in a public forum was powerful as each person took a turn going up to the “well” and stating or silently thinking their pledge, while the flame burned in the center of the well. The elemental power of both an anchor to the pledge and the earth.
This particular ritual has been shifted a bit within my own circle, but we come back to it in some form each year. We include the waters of the world, with each person adding water from sacred places, travels, and home until our well connects us to the collective waters of the earth. We each make a pledge to Brigid often centered on healing or creativity lighting a candle (sacred flame) to make this pledge so.
Ideas for celebrating Brigid
Bake! Because this time of year is still winter and not quite spring, we want to keep nourishment at the forefront. Not just for ourselves but also with the intention of what is to come. We can use the creation of what we bake to provide both.
Examples- unleavened bannocks (oatcakes) as well as pancakes or crepes are items prepared in honor of Imbolc. They are round like the sun, (and like a full womb) and while they are delicious and nourishing, some traditions suggest breaking off a piece of these and leaving it as an offering in your cupboard so that the flour will never run out in the coming year.
Eggs are sunny and symbols of spring and can be used for a variety of yummy creations. Paired with lemons (which are burdening many a tree right now) a lemony custard can be made. Milk and butter are also often used in celebratory foods this time of year as this is when the ewe’s milk begins to flow. For those of us who might not tolerate dairy so well, we now have many alternatives to use in their place. Or perhaps you might choose to create a nourishing meal from winter produce. Or a spicy tea or soup with herbs like cinnamon and nutmeg that symbolize heat and fire and ultimately warmth. The intention remains the same though, welcome and honor the lengthening days and celebrate and invoke fertility of the land and animals.
Create your own “well” to honor Brigid. All you really need is water and a bowl. A floating candle or smaller upside down bowl with candle atop will provide a flame in the center of the well. You might also consider a journey to local body of water or spring.
Make a pledge to Brigid if you feel so called.
Make art or music. Invite spring and Brigid and creative energies into your life. This is the perfect time. Write a poem and read it aloud, or sing a song. You might even have a gathering to do this, sharing songs, poems, art, and the like amongst friends and family.
Divination: This holiday is often linked to divination. I have read about this time of year being used for all types of divination including weather divination. I do not know whether there is a link or not, but I find it interesting that Groundhog Day is the day after Imbolc and is an entire “holiday” dedicated to an animal performing weather divination.
Spend some time doing divination for yourself using your oracle or tarot cards, pendulum or perhaps scrying. With the combination of fire and water this is a wonderful time to use one of these mediums for scrying. (ex: gaze into water or a flame and allow your gaze to soften, making note of any images or messages that come out of this).
Spring Cleaning-Clean your house, Clear your altar, take a cleansing bath. Getting started on a little spring cleaning is a fabulous way to remove the energies collected after a long winter indoors.
However you celebrate, I wish you a blessed and auspicious Imbolc. May your soil be fertile and your crops (whether these be food or goal related) be abundant.
Emily Morrison MA, MFT